DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on June 21, 2017


    young students in Soweto, South Africa (Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Mission trip)

People moving out, people moving in. Why, because of the color of their skin. Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide. Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation. Ball of confusion. Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today…Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul… Fear in the air, tension everywhere. [1]

Mathabane grew up in the time of Apartheid. His childhood was filled with violence (school, police, including domestic). He was the eldest of the children with great responsibility lined with anger and fear. His fear fed his anger which fueled his life for destruction. Families would hide from the police as they raid homes seeking verification of the required identification. The authorities seeking to jail those with our appropriate papers, pass, unemployed, etc. Fathers targeted to be dragged, beaten, and humiliated in from of their families. As the parents live the nightmare, they reflect on the horror their ancestors survived. They were not just punished for the color of their skin but for their tribal affiliation, i.e. language.

These similar methods are currently America under the Law of Immigration and Terrorism, based on Criminalization, by Immigration Naturalization Service (INS). Separating families because of their ethnic and criminal background, but that is not what is happening in America. People are being separated and deported based on ethnicity.

                                 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.  26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

                               27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her

                          daughter was healed at that moment. [2]

Their family struggled, in addition to the laws of the land, to survive death by starvation. He was constantly in fear of the unknown. Mathabane’s description of himself during those times reflected the actions of a deranged hungry animal. He was weak, deliriousness, had fevers, and hunger pains. He was violent towards his siblings and parents due to his fear which was fed by his hunger, for example, fighting his sibling for the nourishment from his mother’s breast. His father’s addition to alcohol and gambling often led to no food on the table. As well as resorting to violence against the wife and children. His mother searching, stealing, and scavenging for food for her family but many days found no substance. Sadly, hunger still lingers around the world.

During these violent times, the missionaries recruited people who looked like the coloreds to teach and scare (encourage) the people to turn from their black God’s and wicked witch doctors, and give their hearts to their White God and Jesus so that they can get to heaven. The devil was described as black. The term black has been synonymous with evil, i.e. blackmail. His mother soon conformed to believe and trust in this God they spoke of and Mathabane, although still skeptical, peeked a little into the belief. After an extensive drought of no work, his mother finally obtained a good job which was able to provide food and his school needs.

                       Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me with brutality.  Talk to me, so you can see. Oh, what’s going on?  [3]

The life he lived built choices opportunities of destruction and demonstration against the law. Mathabane took on the task of being a part of the gang that reacts to the law through defiance and violence. He joined the movements demonstrating against the law which became quickly deadly for the participants of those in the movements. America’s civil movement and advancement of Black people influenced his belief that South Africa’s Apartheid could change. His mother and grandmother sacrificed for him to be educated and to become the one that would be better than his father and have the opportunity and ability to support the family. Many black families in America emphasize education. That is the key to success and being higher in society than your parents. His mother worked and with stood abuse from his father. His grandmother boasted to her employer about her grandson success in school. As a student, who did want to become a student, he was given an opportunity to experience tennis through an unlikely source, his grandmother’s employer. The woman she served as a cleaning woman and gardener for. My greatest tongue lash from my grandmother was when I said, “I would never clean white folk’s houses”. Man, she gave me a lecture on how her cleaning houses supported her family with food, shelter, clothes, etc.

On this journey he met Arthur Ashe and Stan. Arthur establishes tennis clinics and Stan was his angel in America. Mathabane believed getting a scholarship in tennis was a ticket to America. The education system in parts of Africa is still not for the poor. Their system is set up to where the family has to pay school fees, books and uniforms for the children to attend. Many families sacrifice for their children to attend but many have to withdraw their child help the family financially by selling fruit or their bodies on the street.

His book is about his story but sadly, it is the story of many young black children. Reflecting on his life, he realized he left the racism of Apartheid for the racism of America. He became the big brother to his siblings in a manner different than his childhood examples.  In spite of the racism, his life experiences expanded to his receiving a Bachelors and an honorary Doctorate degree. He has written several books, in spite of or because of his history with eye straining issues due to reading and writing letters.

[1] Temptations, Ball of Confusion, Lyrics, accessed June 21, 2017, temptations/ ballofconfusionthatswhattheworldistoday.html

[2] Matthew 15:25-28 NIV

[3] Gaye, Marvin, What’s Going On, Lyrics, accessed June 21, 2017, whatsgoingon.html.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

6 responses to “A CHILD’S CONQUEST”

  1. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Yes Lynda! I had this thought several times throughout the book: “His book is about his story but sadly, it is the story of many young black children.” It’s hard to fathom children and families living with such violence, terror, and starvation. I found myself looking around my city wondering where are the struggling children and families and how can I empower them?

  2. Mary says:

    Lynda, I thought about you as I was writing my book review post. You have experienced so much by helping others. You understand first hand that there is still prejudice in America.
    Kaffir Boy was still a wonderful story of how a boy can make a better life for himself even when the deck is totally stacked against him. But, sadly, there are way too many children who need our help; they don’t have whatever it was that Michael Mathabane had to strive for something better no matter what. Very few are “self-starters”. What can we do to even help a few just get started?

  3. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    ” Reflecting on his life, he realized he left the racism of Apartheid for the racism of America.” This is both true and sad! When I read the book I couldnot help but compare Mark’s story to many black families in America. Unfortunately, the systems in America continues to perpetuate racism.

  4. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Thank you so much for pointing out that we are seeing similar abuses from ICE in this country, Lynda! We are so quick to point out that, “It’s the law,” without realizing that we should likely be fighting against an unjust law, just as white Christians in South Africa should have been.

  5. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    “the missionaries recruited people who looked like the coloreds to teach and scare (encourage) the people to turn from their black God’s and wicked witch doctors, and give their hearts to their White God and Jesus so that they can get to heaven.”

    This is one of those painful reminders that “people of faith” helped perpetuate the sin-filled status quo. And as long as the goal is simply to “get to heaven,” the good news of the gospel isn’t really good news and doesn’t transform lives.

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